Saturday, September 14, 2013

Natters and Niggles

Oops, I've again upset a reader (or two) again by my tongue in cheek remarks about men.  Sorry Mimsys,  but as Eileen said, it was meant to be light-hearted. However, it is true as Alison remarked, that men of my Beloved's age are very much 'Victorian' in the way they treated their womenfolk, and of course that is the lifestyle I know.  Just because we get older doesn't mean we always change with times, we just view things differently.

Here of course is where I should shut up.  Enough said, but differences between then and now are so extreme I feel they are worth a mention, if only to explain why I 'niggled'.
In my youth, when we met men we knew well or only only slightly they would always raise their hats as they passed.  Doors were always opened for us, and we never had to carry anything heavy. 
The rule was the man always walked on the gutter side of the pavement so that he protected the lady against any dirt or splashes from transport that passed.  There was no 'going Dutch' when it came to paying for entertainment or eating out, always the man paid.  Always, ALWAYS,  a man gave up his seat on a bus or train to allow any woman standing to sit down.
Boys usually collected their girl-friends from home when taking them out, if meeting elsewhere, he made sure he took her home, right to her door before leaving her, even if he had missed the last bus home and had to walk five miles to his own home (as my B had to do - often). Never, EVER, should bad language, crude jokes be spoken in the proximity of a woman. 
This did show a certain courtesy (which is not the same as respect) but once married and 'given away' by fathers to another man (that expression alone proves a woman was always thought of as a 'possession) once the honeymoon period was over, women were then firmly put in their place, there to look after the breadwinner, cook, clean, and bear his children.  What the man wanted, the man had to have.  He came first.

Today - because of 'equality - there is now little difference between the behaviour of both sexes and courtesy and respect now seem to have no place.  Women have to stand in buses and trains while men stay sitting, women have to tug open heavy doors (sometimes to allow men through), and carry their own heavy parcels. They are even expected to go out to work,  bear children and still do most of the cooking/housework when they return home..  Of course not ALL families are the same, some husbands stay at home while their wives earn the money.  Nothing wrong with that (probably a darn sight easier anyway). 
In my day divorce was a 'shock, horror' word.  Only in America was divorce a common thing.  Women stayed in a miserable marriage because that was how it was.  Nowadays we hear of woman leaving their husband/partner AND their children to go off to 'do their own thing, be their own person'. Some would say everyone has a right to happiness, even if they leave their family behind. Others would say it is pure selfishness. 
There are always for's and against's with any situation, and reasons why certain things happen, so again this is me generalising, and just the way I tend to see life as it is today, and appreciate that not everyone shares the same views.  Live and let live.

Yesterday I went out with Norris, and as I was returning home my collapsible walking stick fell out of the scooter basket.  Several young men were walking towards me, saw the stick on the ground and me struggling to retrieve it, but just walked past, ignoring my difficulty.  Still bending down to try to reach the stick, an old(er) gentleman (well he was old, but am sure must have been younger than me, everyone is younger than me) came from behind and picked it up for me.  I thanked him of course.  Courtesy given to those who earn the respect.   

A welcome to Wimmera (from Oz).  Seems that 'down under' the prices are as steep as ours, and the products just as bad.
Welcome also to J.T. from New Hampshire (US) now studying in London where prices for foods are often substantially higher than anywhere north of Watford. It is said that Aldi and Lidl are some of the cheapest and smaller supermarkets, but myself have not ventured into their stores.  Myself like Tesco and do find their veg pretty good, cheaper if you buy their second grade.  Same 'quality' as grade A, but not so perfect in appearance.
If there are any good market stalls within reach, then this is probably the best place to find the freshest and cheapest fruit and veg, and late Saturday, much of the perishable produce (soft fruit, mushrooms, tomatoes etc)  is sold off really cheaply as it won't keep over the weekend.

Boxed organic vegetables are very fresh, and for this reason some can have very good flavour, but need to be eaten with a day or two of delivery, otherwise they end up tasting the same as supermarket veg.  Myself believe there is little or no nutritional difference between organic and the non organic, but then what would I know?  Certainly not enough difference to warrant paying such a higher price, if all we wish for is to 'eat to live'.  Only those wealthy enough can have the luxury of paying the top price for everything, like all the time.  But the good news is that those who cost-cut as frugally as I do (sometimes) can then save enough over time to able to occasionally treat themselves to 'the best'.

As to a gravy recipe.  Myself tend to cook a couple or so lbs (or a kg) of stewing meat, with some sliced onions, in a slow cooker, just covering the chunks of meat with water, and after 8 or so hours of slow-cooking, the resulting liquid is very 'meaty'.  This I use as a gravy base, and have to say I often cheat a bit by putting some of this 'meat stock' into a pan with a teaspoon of Bisto Best gravy granules, then bringing it to the boil.  The granules thicken the stock and also add a bit more meaty flavour.  I've sometimes used an oxtail 'cuppa soup', made with half the recommended amount of boiling water, and this too makes a reasonably good 'beef gravy'.
Gravy itself can vary in density, some parts of the country like a thick gravy, others like it thinner, so if leaning towards the 'thin', just reducing down meat stock to make the flavour more concentrated will do the trick.
As I'm replying to a US reader, feel I should point out that when watching the Food Network showing US cooks, there 'stock' sometimes seems to be what we call 'gravy' and vice versa.

Looks like being a lovely sunny day today, the forecast is good, so might take the opportunity to remove the geraniums from the big plants and return them to individual and smaller pots, so can then bring them into the conservatory later to keep flowering over the winter (as they do).  Then can plant the many daffodil and tulip bulbs bought the other day.  As they will be planted well below soil level, can probably tuck a few of the annual plants back into the pots so they continue to look good while we still have some (probable) good weather left before October and the first frosts.
Tomorrow there is forecast a great change in the weather with heavy rain and gales, so must make the most of today.

Even so, Saturday being 'baking day', really have to do some cooking, cakes, biscuits, things to keep B in 'snacks' throughout the week while he watches TV. 
When B returned from his Friday social night at the sailing club he told me that they were expecting me to make desserts for the 'do' next Saturday night.  First I'd heard of it.  Seems I should have had an email about it, but haven't, I've checked back several weeks in case I missed it.   Just as well I've heard as still have time to make what they want.   Hopefully. 

Called in at the new 'wool and craft' shop that has opened on our local shopping parade.  Bought a pack of sewing needles with big eyes (esp. for wool) and a bottle of fabric adhesive.  Also a ball of black wool (from the reduced basket of 'oddments').  With these I intend making some cushion covers to go in our living room.  I already have some cream curtain lining that I will use for the covers, and some oddments of material in the right colours.  The idea is to copy the pattern/colours on the leaded windows in that room, gluing down the appliqued coloured material, and then chainstitching round with the black wool to look like the 'leading', also stitching straight lines down and across to copy the other bits of lead.  Should look rather good.
Regular readers will remember that in April I was given an extra 25p a week on top of the pension as I'd reached the ripe old age of 80.  Working on that being (just over) £1 a month, my ongoing challenge was then to spend the pension increase on something that would end up worth more.
The first month's 'April extra' was spent on a packet of Mixed Salad Leaves, which have been growing and harvested since then.  Couldn't think of anything to spend the next month's on, so that meant I'd got at least £4 to spend (not counting Sept), so some of that went on the purchases from the craft shop.  And still money left over. 
If I cut up old pillows to use for stuffing, and using the free curtain lining that B got when he worked for a curtain fitter, then you could say my bespoke cushions have not really cost me anything at all. Twentyfive pence a week is NOTHING by today's standards, but it has eventually added up to enough to buy something that will end up being worth a lot more.  As long as I DO make the cushions.

Yesterday B had a (previously frozen) Steak and Kidney Pie for his supper.  A fairly big one, baked in a recycled Fray Bentos tin.  I'd already cut circles (to fit the top) from a sheet of puff pastry, and had frozen these separately, and each cooked separately (alongside the pie) as B does not like soggy bottoms.  Once baked, and the pie removed from the tin (I baked the base blind before adding the meat - this then being reheated) the lid is then placed over the pie and looks as though it was cooked on top.
Today B requests liver, bacon, cabbage and potatoes.  I can manage to fit that into my 'busy day'.

Carrot and Coriander Soup is always a favourite, and although there are several recipes around for this, some admittedly easier and cheaper than this one, making the soup in a slow-cooker/crock pot is worth trying as carrots gain a richer and sweeter flavour when cooked this way.
Normally, vegetables don't become as tender when slow-cooked as they do when fast-boiled, but as these are partially cooked before putting in the slow-cooker, already the cooking process has been started, and the remainder of the time (several hours) is enough to soften them.
The soup can be made and blitzed without the coriander, then frozen.  Thaw and reheat, meanwhile frying the coriander and adding to the soup as given below.

Crock-pot Carrot and Coriander Soup: serves 4
1 lb (450g) carrots, pref young and tender
1 tblsp sunflower oil
3 tblsp butter
1 onion, chopped
1 rib celery, sliced
2 small potatoes, peeled and diced
1.5 pints (900ml) boiling vegetable stock
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tblsp chopped fresh coriander
5 fl oz (150ml) milk
salt and pepper
Trim the carrots, peel only if necessary, and cut into chunks (if using old carrots cut into small dice). Heat the oil with 2 tblsp of the butter in a pan over gentle heat, then fry the onion for 3 - 4 minutes until beginning to soften.  Do not let it brown.
Add the celery, potatoes and carrots and cook for a further 3 minutes, then transfer the veggies to the ceramic cooking pot. Add the boiling water and salt and pepper to taste.  Cover and cook on low for 5 hours or until the vegetables are tender.
Melt the remaining butter in the pan and add the ground coriander, stir-fry for one minute until the coriander releases its aroma.  Then add the chopped fresh coriander.  Fry for 30 seconds then remove from the heat.
Ladle the soup into a food processor or liquidiser/blender and blitz until smooth.  Pour back into the pan with the coriander/s, stir in the milk and heat gently until piping hot.  Serve with crusty bread. Eat and enjoy.

That has to be it for today as already most of the morning has gone, and if I want to do some planting and transplanting, then perhaps will have my baking day tomorrow (being that it will be wet and windy). 
As usual, taking another day off so should be back nattering and niggling again on Monday.  Whatever the weather, have a good weekend and look forward to hearing from you.  TTFN.